I get really frustrated when I see people and companies online selling unrealistic dreams when it comes to coding education. It's quite lucrative when you're in the edtech industry to heavily exaggerate (or even lie) about how long it will take for learners to get job-ready. I teach backend development skills at Boot.dev and try my best to give students realistic goals they can reach for.
Read on to hear all about my thoughts on how long it will take to learn backend development, but first let's cover some of the most important stuff right off the bat.
- Almost no one is getting "job ready" in less than 16 weeks.
- If you're learning efficiently, it probably won't take more than 2 years to get "job ready".
- Depending on where you're starting from, becoming a backend developer in 6-12 months can be a very realistic goal
I really believe those three key points, but there's a lot that goes into them. In the end, how long it's going to take you to learn to be a backend developer, and then how long it will take to go find a job you'll like is a nuanced question. Anyhow, let's dive in and try to give you a more specific set of expectations.
How long it takes to learn to code depends on a few things
- Do you know how to navigate a command line interface?
- Are you familiar with Linux and Bash?
- Are you already "computer savvy"?
- Are you quick to pick up a new UI interface for apps that you use?
- Are you good at doing research and looking things up online?
- Have you done any data work using Excel or SQL?
- Do you enjoy working with computers?
- Are you good at math? Algebra would be great, trigonometry and calculus would be fantastic!
- Have you done any coding before?
If you can answer "yes" to any of these questions, your journey will be quite a bit faster! Use the list below to see how your answers to these questions should alter your expectations.
- "Yes" to all of the questions: 4-6 months to "job ready"
- "Yes" to most of the questions: 6-9 months to "job ready"
- "Yes" to a few of the questions: 9-15 months to "job ready"
- "Yes" to none of the questions: 15-24 months to "job ready"
Of course, there are many other tidbits of knowledge and training that can speed up your journey. I just listed 10 of the most common ones.
What else impacts how long it will take me to learn backend development?
Apart from analyzing where you're starting from, there some other key factors that will heavily impact how long it will take you to get a backend job.
- How many hours can you put into learning and building weekly? The numbers I'm working with assume about 20.
- Are you a fast learner? The numbers I'm working with assume you're about average.
- How much schooling have you received? The numbers I'm working with assume at least a high-school diploma.
Do the time-frames above include the time for the job search itself?
Probably not - but again, that just depends on so much. If you don't have any connections, and you're in a "mediocre" city in regards to tech opportunities, I'd expect it to take another 3-6 months to find a job that's a great fit for you. Let's look at a few key questions that will impact how long your job search takes. The more "yes" answers the better!
- Did you keep learning and building after you started your job search? (You should!)
- Do you know people IRL who work in tech that can give you introductions?
- Are you helpful member of tech communities online?
- Do you live in a tech hub, or at least a city that has some good jobs?
- Do you know some people (online or IRL) that can review your resume and project portfolio?
- Do you like meetups, and are there any coding meetups in your city?
Does it take longer to learn back-end or front-end?
I don't actually know.
My guess is that it takes about 20% longer to learn job-ready backend skills because there seems to be more to learn. A good computer science foundation is practically required for most back-end and data engineering jobs. While CS basics are still super useful for front-end developers, they aren't as necessary.
How much data do you have to back this up?
Not enough. All I've got right now are anecdotes from the hundreds of students I've talked to and worked with, and what I've seen from working in the industry. As Boot.dev grows, I plan to do some surveys and collect more data so I can continue to update this guide! In the meantime, this is what I've observed and what I'm hearing from the students I work with! Let me know on Twitter if you think I've made a mistake!